Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

Off the ledge, into the playbook

First, allow me to extend my thanks to readers who reminded that while this year’s Portland Winterhawks are done, the best is yet to come for their future. Now that I have been talked off that ledge, I will return to my regularly scheduled programming of learning the many quirks and mysteries of hockey. In this edition, I’ll seek to at last understand what it means when play-by-play announcers say a player fanned on a shot or pass, airmailed a pass, and chipped it in deep. I will learn the difference between the far side boards and the near side boards. And more importantly, who the heck came up with these choice verbal tidbits?

It’s just what it looks like: Fanning on a pass means a player winds up and swings to shoot a puck and misses.

What’s the difference between next day and overnight?: Airmailing a pass means you “loft” a puck into the air to get it past the opponent and into the hands of your teammate. A video of an airmail pass is worth a thousand words, especially when it’s courtesy of Anze Kopitar.

Seems like they could also call this flip the puck: As near as I can tell, chipping the puck is largely the job of wingers, and involves banking the puck off the boards deep into the offensive zone, setting up a scoring opportunity for another forward. Rimming it hard around the boards is the alternative choice. The objective is to move the puck closer to the net, away from the opponent and into the hands of a teammate. Preferably one who is in a position to score. Or not.

But of course: “Rink” is a Scottish word meaning “course” that was used as the name of a place where another game was played. The other game? Curling. Coincidence? I think not.

Why play the puck when you can do this?: A one-timer means hitting the puck directly upon receiving a pass.

Speaking of boards: I think I’ve got it. The near side boards are the boards nearest to the player with the puck. The far side boards are on the opposite side of the player with the puck.  Or not. This must be one of those terms that’s so obvious you can’t even find an official definition on Google.

In case you were wondering, no this isn’t what they do to keep the pucks at regulation temperature: Freezing the puck means to hold the puck against the boards with either the skate or stick to get a stoppage of play.

Shouldn’t they call this give it back?: Give and go is an offensive tactic in which a player passes the puck to a teammate, then skates into an open area of the ice to take a return pass. Still, both are better than “here, hold the puck while I go get into position to score.”

I should have known this: According to Wikipedia, wingers are bigger than centermen and smaller than defensemen. I tested this out on the Portland Winterhawks’ roster. This is generally true, with the exception of Sven Bartschi, who’s only 5’10”. But make note, my little 2011 Entry Draft watchers; he’s small but mighty. He’s also the proprietor of choice soundbites: In his NHL Draft Profile, he describes himself as the only Swiss guy who’s never donned a pair of skis and he declares “I have a good scoring touch.” It’s so totally Sven: he’s honest but humble. He led all WHL rookies in scoring this season, and was nominated for the WHL’s Rookie of the Year award.

This definitely fits Buffalo Sabres draft pick Riley Boychuk to a T: “Agression is key to being a winger: game often hinge on the grit and determination behind players who relentlessly fight for the puck and harrass opponents.” So does this: “Wingers who play very physically are known as grinders for their ability to literally grind opponents against the boards until the puck squeezes out.”

Parting shots: 1) No, I didn’t think freezing the puck is what they did to keep them at regulation temperature. But I did used to think icing is what players did when they “snowed the goalie.” Really. There. Now I said it. I feel better.  2) Since this is merely the tip of the hockey terminology/playbook iceberg, refresh me…..how exactly are players supposed to keep this game simple?


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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com